“My grandfather used to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer’’ – These are the words of one of the most celebrated global modern day famers, mentor and motivational speakers Brenda Schoepp.
These words were reiterated here in Botswana this week by different stakeholders when the paramount importance of Agriculture was discussed in relation to the 2018/19 Budget proposal which was presented to Parliament on Monday. Commentators have expressed concern in regard the little money allocated to Agriculture by government. This year Agriculture has only been allocated 3% of the overall budget, which is a far cry from the 10% ceiling, which the regional standard.
According to experts and agricultural advocates the lack of adequate budget to the agriculture sector subsequently means no infrastructure development to support the sector, no road networks to connect farm lands with market places, no development of innovative solutions in response to climate challenges facing the sector.
At the First National Bank Botswana(FNBB) Budget Speech Review held at the GICC on Tuesday, just a day after Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo delivered the 2018/19 Budget Speech, various speakers made the same call – the money proposed for agriculture is way too little.
The common denominator in various submissions by different speakers centred on the fact that agriculture has demonstrated before (through numerous scientific studies and economic research findings) that the sector is a potential remedy to Botswana’s economic diversification headache.
At independence Agriculture contributed over 30 % to the country‘s Gross Domestic Product (GDP); but today the sector has been relegated to a mere 2 % replaced by the lucrative Diamond & Tourism industries . Pre-Independence Batswana lived out of pastoral and arable farming – today the sector is still the source of livelihood for many ordinary Batswana especially those in the rural settlements. The major concern is that on a national scale Botswana cannot feed her 2 million people. The country still imports over 50 % of almost every food commodity predominately from neighboring South Africa.
Minister Matambo announced a 1.34 billion pula budget proposal for the Ministry of Agriculture in the recurrent budget, this will not bring any significant improvement to the sector that supposedly should be feeding Batswana. This has been referred to as underfunding by Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) head of Agronomy, Lambani Obuseng.
Obuseng expressed his concern in the morning session of the budget review which tackled issues in the sectors of agriculture & energy. He said it was pivotal for the government to review the 3 % expenditure which is not enough to develop and resource agriculture sector.
It emerged at the session that Maputo declaration of the 2003 African Union Summit dictates that member states need to spend at least 10 % of their total budget on Agriculture. “Botswana has not been doing that for years since this agreement, it’s a cause for concern,” observed Obuseng.
The Agronomist also said that Agriculture was a complex sector especially when a country wants to produce on a large scale and promote commercial farming. He said with unfavorable and evolving climate conditions Botswana must move with times and be innovative to realize significant contribution of this sector on the economy.
“Modern day farming technology requires capital and to produce on large scale requires capacity, and that is to say there has to be deliberate spending and will from government side to resource these requisites,” he said. Obuseng further observed that though government has tried with a number of initiatives in the past years to grow the agricultural sector, it continued to decline as a result of certain operational challenges that continue to besiege the sector. Some of these challenges include but not limited to poor soil fertility, dependence on simple manual tools, low adoption levels of agricultural technology and poor infrastructure.
Adding to Obuseng’s views, Clover Botswana General Manager, Mike Joyner observed that the funds allocated to the agriculture sector were inadequate. “This 3 % is against a number of propositions adopted in different regional foras. The SADC strategy on agricultural development submitted that agro-processing was a key sector for development. You cannot develop agro procession with this kind of un-prioritized funding that leaves agriculture with the remains of the budget,” he said.
Renowned Beef mogul, Mr Clive Marshall shared on the challenges facing the beef sector such as low returns for cattle producers and lack of market access. He said for Batswana to venture into beef processing and get in feedlots operation in large numbers funds must be availed by the government.
In the main event of the FNBB Budget Review staged in the evening, just before speakers from different sectors of the economy took the podium to dissect and interact on Budget speech, the FNBB Chief Executive Officer, Steven Bogatsu took the stage and hit hard on what he termed lack of will from Government to develop the agriculture Sector . In his welcome remarks, Bogatsu sent a message to government enclave: “why do we still spend less on agriculture while the sector has proven beyond reasonable doubt to be able to create jobs?”
Bogatsu further said it was irrational to continue spending money on importing agricultural produce year and year out while we can inject funds in developing our own sector and produce food. The FNBB CEO also touched on the beef industry, “why do we still operate Botswana Meat Commission in this model while it was making losses year and year out?”
Bogatsu cited Botswana-De Beers relationship as a benchmark model, “we have a good relationship with multinational corporations like De Beers. Why can’t we adopt the same model for BMC and take the beef industry to the next level?” Government was advised to seriously consider reviewing the budget proposed for agriculture.
The Bulb World Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and entrepreneur, Ketshephaone Jacob has been selected as a 2021 Top 50 Africa’s Business Hero.
Jacob was chosen from a pool of 12,000 applicants – many of whom are highly-skilled and accomplished entrepreneurs.
Africa’s Business Hero, sponsored by technology entrepreneur, Jack Ma, aims to identify, support and inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their local communities, working to solve the most pressing problems, and building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future.
The initiative is as inclusive as possible and applications were open in English and French to entrepreneurs from all African countries, all sectors, and all ages who operate businesses formally registered and headquartered in an African country, and that have a 3 year-track record.
Every year, finalists are selected to compete in the ABH finale pitch competition and participate in a TV Show that will be broadcast online and across the continent.
The finalists will compete for a share of US $1.5 million in grant money.
The Bulb World, is home grown LED light manufacturing company, which was partly funded by Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) at the tune of P4 million, to manufacture LED lighting bulbs for both commercial and residential use in 2017.
The Bulb World operate from the Special Economic Zone of Selibe Phikwe. Early this year, The BulB World announced its expansion to South Africa, setting in motion its ambitious Africa expansion plan.
During the first quarter of 2021, production in Botswana’s economic nucleus- the mining sector contracted by 12 percent. This is according to Mining Production Index released by Statistics Botswana this week.
The country’s central data body revealed that Index of Mining production stood at 74.4 during the first quarter of 2021, showing a negative year on-year growth of 12.0 percent, from 84.6 registered during the first quarter of 2020.
The main contributor to the decline in mining production came from the Diamonds sector, which contributed negative 11.7 percentage points. Soda Ash was the only positive contributor in the mining production, contributing 0.1 of a percentage point. However Soda Ash’s contribution was insignificant to offset the negative contribution made by Diamonds.
The quarter-on-quarter analysis by Statistics Botswana experts shows an increase of 16.3 percent from the index of 64.0 during the fourth quarter of 2020 to 74.4 observed during the period under review.
Diamond production decreased by 12.1 percent during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter of the previous year. The decrease was as a result of planned strategy to align production with weaker trading conditions mostly linked to Covid-19 protocols restrictions.
Botswana’s diamond sector is underpinned by Debswana, the country’s flagship rough producer- a 50-50 joint venture between government and global mining giant De Beers Group. The other producer is Canadian based Lucara Diamond Corp through its wholly owned Karowe Mine which is a relatively small but significant production that has made a name for itself worldwide with rare diamond recoveries of unprecedented carat size.
On the other hand, quarter-on quarter analysis shows that production has improved, registering a positive growth of 17.5 percent during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the preceding quarter – 2020 Q4.
Though production was significantly lower in the first quarter, the two producers ended Q2 with rare diamond recoveries. Debswana early last month found the world’s third largest gem diamond – weighing 1098 carat at Jwaneng Mine, its flagship gem quality diamonds producer, also regarded the world’s richest diamond mine.
A week later Lucara announced its second biggest recovery, the 1174 carat clivage near-gem dug from its Karowe Mine. The diamond is the world third in carat size after the plus-3000 carat Cullinan found in South Africa back in 1905 and the 1758 carat Sewelo unearthed at its Karowe mine in 2019. Debswana and Lucara are investing billions of pulas in underground mining projects to extend the life of its mines, Jwaneng & Karowe respectively.
In terms of Gold which is produced at Mupani mine near Botswana’s second city of Francistown output decreased by 17.9 percent during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter of the previous year.
Similarly, quarter-on-quarter analysis reflects that production decreased by 21.4 percent during the first quarter of 2021, compared to the preceding quarter. The decrease was as a result of the deteriorating lifespan of the mine as well as the impact of COVID-19 which slowed down the mining activities.
Soda Ash production increased by 11.1 percent during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter of the previous year. In terms of quarter-on-quarter Soda Ash production also showed an increase, picking up by 2.1 percent during the period under review. The increase in production is attributable to the effectiveness of the plant following refurbishment which occurred in the third quarter of 2020.
Salt production decreased by 34.0 percent during the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same quarter of the previous year. Similarly, the quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that salt production registered a decrease of 32.9 percent during the period under review. Both salt and Sodash are produced by partly government owned Botswana Ash (BotsAsh) operating from Sowa town near Makgadikgadi pans.
Coal production decreased by 11.2 percent during the first quarter of 2021, compared to the corresponding quarter of the previous year. The decrease was attributed to the reduced demand from Morupule B Power Station following the remedial works being undertaken, as one boiler was in operation during the period under review.
Although production fell, Statistics Botswana says there was no shortfall in supply of coal due to stockpiling. On the other hand, the quarter-on-quarter comparison shows that coal production increased by 20.4 percent compared to the preceding quarter.
Botswana’s flagship coal producer is Morupule Coal Mine; a wholly state owned mining company located in Palapye producing primarily for Botswana Power Corporation (BPC)’s power generation plants Morupule A & B.
The other coal producer is Botswana Stock Exchange listed Minergy which operates a 390 MT Coal Resource mine in Masama near Media in the southwestern edge of the Mmamabula Coalfields.
Department of Mines in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security has awarded mining licence to Tshukudu Metals-a subsidiary of Aussie firm Sandfire Resources ,giving the company a green light to start piecing the ground at its Motheo Copper Project near Gantsi.
Lefoko Moagi, minister in charge of mineral resources in Botswana confirmed to weekendpost on Tuesday. Minister Moagi revealed that “the licence has been approved , but Sandfire Resources as a listed company will report to its shareholders and investors then make an official public statement” he said.
Based on a forecast copper price of US$3.16/lb (reflecting current long-term consensus pricing) the Base Case 3.2Mtpa – Ghantsi copper project is forecast to generate US$664 million (over P7 billion) in pre-tax free cash-flow and US$987 million (over P10 billion) in EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation), at a forecast all-in sustaining cost of US$1.76/lb over its first 10 years of operations.
In December 2020, the Board of Sandfire Resources approved the commercial development of the Motheo Copper Mine located in the Kalahari Copper Belt in Botswana, marking a key step in its transformation into a global, diversified, and sustainable mining company.
Tshukudu Metals Botswana (Pty) Limited (Tshukudu) a 100% owned subsidiary will be the owner and operator of the Motheo Copper Mine which is scheduled to produce up to 30,000 tonnes per annum of copper in concentrate over a 12 year mine life.TMB is targeting development of its Motheo Copper Mine in 2021 and 2022, with its first production in 2023.
GOVERNMENT NOT TAKING UP 15 % STAKE ON OFFER
Beginning of this year presentations were made to the Department of Mines as part of the Mining Licence approval process and to the Ghanzi Regional Council, additional information was requested by Department of Mines in April and was duly supplied by the company.
As part of the Mining Licence approval process, the Government of Botswana has a right to acquire up to a 15% fully contributing interest in all mining projects locally. Quizzed on whether government through Mineral Development Corporation Botswana (MDCB) would be taking up stake in the project Minister Moagi said, “No consideration is being made on that regard”.
“Government is not considering taking up a stake in the Ghantsi Copper Mine project, every opportunity is assessed on all risks, but Government makes money all the while from leases, taxes and royalties, remember if you take stake you are liable for liabilities of the project as well,” Moagi said.
Last month Sandfire announced that it has awarded over P5 billion worth mining contract to African Mining Services (AMS), a subsidiary of Perenti, to deliver the open cast operation.
The contract, which has an estimated value of US$496 million (over 5 billion), is the largest single operational contract for the new Motheo Project covering a period of 7 years and 3 months, with provision for a one-year extension.
The contract according to Sandfire Resources was awarded following a competitive 3-stage tender process which saw a number of key factors taken into consideration when selecting the preferred contractor.
These included Citizen Economic Empowerment, safety culture, equipment suitability and availability, commercial terms and identified improvement opportunities. Under the terms of the contract, AMS has agreed to form a 70:30 Joint Venture with a suitable local Botswana partner or partners.
The JV is expected to be finalized ahead of commencement of mining in early 2022. African Mining Services has been operating in Africa for over 30 years. AMS’ parent company, ASX listed diversified mining services group Perenti, already has a presence in Botswana through Barminco, their underground mining division, at the large-scale Khoemacau Copper Mine located 200km north-east of Motheo.
Last month Sandfire executives said the award of the open pit mining contract represents another key milestone in advancing the Motheo Project towards production, with all components of the contract in line with the key parameters outlined in the December 2020 Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS).
The company said full-scale construction of the US$279 million (over P 3 billion ) mine development is expected to commence immediately upon receipt of the Mining Licence, with mining scheduled to commence in early 2022 ahead of first production in early 2023. This week Sandfire Resources advertised over 10 positions in calling on applications from geologists, mining engineers and geotechnical engineers.
The Motheo mine has an initial mine life of 12.5 years based on production from the T3 pit. The initial development is expected to generate approximately 1,000 jobs during the construction phase and 600 direct full-time jobs during operations, with at least 95% of the total mine workforce expected to be made of up of Botswana citizens.
Later in the week Sandfire Resources announced in the company website that it has received the licence. Sandfire’s Managing Director and CEO, Mr Karl Simich, said the award of the Mining Licence represented a major milestone that would see a significant increase in construction and development activities on site.
“We are absolutely delighted to now be in a position to move to full-scale construction at Motheo, with our construction crews expected to mobilise to site over the next few days. I would like to thank the Government of Botswana for their support throughout the approvals process, which will see Motheo come on-stream in 2023 as one of very few new copper mines commencing production globally.”
Simich said the project is expected to generate approximately 1,000 jobs during construction and 600 full-time jobs during operations, and represents the foundation for Sandfire’s long-term growth plans in Botswana.
“Our vision is that Motheo will form the centre of a new, long-life copper production hub in in the central portion of the world-class Kalahari Copper Belt, where we hold an extensive ground-holding spanning Botswana and Namibia,” he said.